Cancer, tumors, radiation, priorities.

Sometimes I feel like this blog is nothing more but a venting place for me. I only bring mostly the bad stuff here. But so be it. I’m not writing for too many readers anyway, but there is something therapeutic about blogging, and it does make me feel better. So here goes- another super uplifting post.

My aunt has lung cancer. Today she starts chemotherapy to shrink a giant tumor so that it can be removed. She lives 500 miles away in Indianapolis, IN. I don’t see her much, but when I was a kid she was a shining star in my sky.

For a while when I was a little boy and still lived in Indiana, my parents couldn’t really afford to support me. My aunt took me in. She raised me. I remember her taking me to kindergarten, feeding me, hugging me and putting me to bed when I was very little. I remember her taking me trick or treating. Whenever I’m in the area I always make my way over to Mooresville, Indiana to drive through her old neighborhood and remember those trick or treat days.

Over the years I’ve lost touch with her. Too busy with my own life, family and job. And the distance doesn’t help either. Today I decided to call her and tell her I was thinking of her and wish her luck.

She seemed strangely accepting of the entire situation. While everyone else in her family is melting down, she is simply just her. She joked that the worse that can happen is it kills her, and if it doesn’t kill her then she guesses she made out alright.

If she doesn’t pull through, this will the second child my grandmother has lost to tobacco. Ironically, the stress of the entire situation has my mother smoking more than ever. I’m glad I never picked up the terrible habit.

After hanging up with my Aunt, I sat here a second feeling flustered over the mountain of work I have surrounding me this week. Where do I start? I need to set up easily half a dozen meetings, write a report, create Visio diagrams and a bunch of other mumbo jumbo that will probably be filed away and forgotten after I’ve spent the last three weeks preparing it.

What I should really be doing is driving to Indianapolis to be with one of the only people in the world who really cared for me when my parents couldn’t. Even my own grandparents couldn’t seem to find it in themselves to be there for my parents at that hard time in their lives.

But we have to set our priorities straight, right? I’ve got kids to feed, bills to pay, a career to think about.

Suddenly I don’t give a fuck about work. Suddenly it seems like a means to an end. Get money so I can give it to someone else.

I hope my Aunt is fearless today. I would be a terrible mess on the inside if I were her. I assume she is, but she’s doing a great job of not showing. She’s a real trooper. I still admire her just like I did when I was a little boy.




My wife and Mr. Area Code (814)

A few weeks ago I wrote about my wife hating being a mother. Then some amazing commenters set me straight on what was probably going on in her head and what I was probably doing wrong. It turns out they were right. The pressures of being a stay at home mother, barefoot and pregnant so to speak, had taken its toll on her.

My wife felt like she had lost her identity.

Then last week something catastrophic happened. My wife went out to spend the evening with a friend going through a divorce and met someone, but not just someone- someone who as she put it, clicked with her in a way no one else has except me when we first started dating.

Only, she didn’t tell me this at first. I had to figure it out through suspicious behavior and thinly veiled lies and being possibly a little too detail oriented. Immediately, my wife started accusing me of spying on her.

I saw the writing on the wall. She was cheating on me. But how bad was it? How long was it going on? So… I did spy. I downloaded her phone metadata (the same stuff the NSA gets) from her detailed billing statement with the cell phone company, pulled the data into Excel and started filtering and pivoting it.

Lo and behold I found it- the number. A single number that had never been called before that last Saturday night when all the strange behavior began.

What was I to do now? Admit I was in fact spying on her, and in the worse way? My wife already refers to me as a “Digital Detective.” It’s what I do for a living in her eyes.

I talked to Atty and he laid the hard love on me. He said to quit being selfish. He said I’ve focused on myself for too long- through grad school, losing weight, travelling, perusing my career, and I’d left my wife behind.

The Conversation.

I went to my wife to have the conversation that I felt would make or break my marriage. It turns out I was probably right.

Instead of making accusations, laying out the evidence or accusing my wife, I humbled myself in the most extreme way possible. I thanked her for allowing me to become the man that I had worked so hard to be. I told her it was because of her and her alone that I was permitted to pursue my education, my career, my livelihood and even my good health.

My wife initially attacked me, like my even broaching the subject had kicked over a beehive. She swarmed and stung hard. She called me a selfish asshole. She made me feel like a piece of shit. I took it.

Then I simply asked her about ‘him.’ Mr. Area Code- (814). She didn’t reply. I don’t think she really knew how.

The Next Day.

The next day I urged my wife to talk to me as her best friend. Not as her husband, but a friend free of accusations, anger or judgment. I think the last day of guilt had worn her down and to my amazement, the details started pouring out.

I sat balled up on the couch, my knees pressed deep into my chest as I listened to the story about this sweet Welsh man who was in town doing a guest lecture series at the local college.

My wife unabashedly told me every detail of her night with him ranging from his pickup line, to light hand holding to taking shots together and dancing the night away. I wanted to puke, but instead I took the repeated blows to the heart.

I asked her if she’d seen him again. I asked her if they had any sort of physical relations. She said no. She said she had gone to meet him for coffee and left out of guilt. Then he was back off to the UK the next day.

She said he was coming back in November. I asked if she’d try to meet with him again. She said she didn’t know.

In my mind I felt like I was entangled in a Stanley Kubrick movie, a strange hypnotic waltz where your feet continue to move in a strict formation while your mind is a million miles away in a place where everything is warped and backwards.

After the fact, I still wondered if maybe there wasn’t more to the story, but I have come to realize it doesn’t matter. What matters at this point is that I had no choice but to trust her. Trust is the only thing that will fix whatever has been broken somewhere along the way.

And frankly, I don’t know that I need to know the details. What does it help? It would only lead my mind off into a tailspin.

So now I work to let my wife regain herself. To focus more on her happiness, because I love her and she deserves it. I don’t feel angry or hurt that she had a night of flirting with a stranger. What I felt was fear.

I feared it was over for good. And maybe, just maybe if Mr. Area Code- (814) didn’t happen to be a foreigner sweeping out of town just as quickly as he’d swept in and swept my wife right off her feet, it would have been.


Pet Worship! WTF?

Has anyone else besides me noticed the growing trend of pet worship over the years? I actually know people who have more empathy for stay animals than homeless people. I’ve witnessed people who will bawl their eyes out if an animal dies in a movie, but doesn’t bat an eye at a rape scene in a film! And I even know of one insane person who was caught stealing breeding dogs and having them spayed then returning the dog to its home and justifying the act as stopping “doggy rape”.


The hilarity continues…

At my new job, pet insurance is actually a benefit you can purchase, boutique dog biscuit shops are now common place even in small towns and upscale pet daycares now also exist, some complete with optional spa treatment and webcams so you can check in on your fuzzy little pal just to make sure they’re doing fine and not suffering from separation anxiety. OH WOE AS ME!

Personally, I like dogs and cats OK and appreciate the company and love a good pet can provide, but this is getting out of control. Are we really so free of problems in our lives that we’ve resorted to worshipping our pets?

And further, isn’t it a little hypocritical or even short sighted that many of the same people who appear to love their pets so much have no issue with chomping down on a cheeseburger or enjoy a nice chicken breast on their Caesar salad?

News flash folks! If you really love animals as much as you say you do, maybe you should check into how your meat is made. Those poor animals certainly aren’t getting their nails painted while enjoying a nice $9 organic dog biscuit.

Personally, I’ve decided that I love eating animals, and if/when the zombie apocalypse comes your overweight, diabetic little fluffypuff is the first thing I’m going to eat.

And if I find one of these over privileged animals shitting in my yard again, they’re getting a paintball in the ass.



Thoughts on Marriage

A few days ago Holden wrote an honest and raw post about the difficulties of marriage and children.  Equally, truthful and perhaps more revealing were the comments. Both of which inspired me to take a shot at articulating my own relationship situation.

My wife and I have been together for over 11 years (married for four of them). We literally grew up together. We attended the same high school and the same University . We shared the same group of friends.  And for the most part been together every day for the last decade. A relationship like this has its own set of nuances we have to work through.

First, there is no mystery between us. For the most part we know everything about each other. Not just philosophically, but we literally know pretty much everything. She knows what I had for lunch yesterday. That can be both good and bad.

For example, we do not enjoy the veil of wonder between us that I witness some of my friends in new relationships enjoy. There is no self-created amazement, and no pretending that the other person is a God. Then again, we know each other better than any two people on earth can know one another – and we still love (and like) each other.

Second, even though my wife and I grew up together  – two people probably couldn’t be more different and have experienced life more differently. My wife is an artist, she feels deeply and shows emotion, she is caring and empathetic. My wife is silly and enjoys vampire movies. My wife will take two hours to hang a photo and will spend two days in an art museum. I hang all of my photos crooked, I workout 4-5 days a week, I’m impatient, business minded, and quick witted. Fills gaps, I guess.

It is strange sharing your life with someone. Because even though we have agreed to share our life – we are still two separate people. Two people with different ambitions, different motives and goals, and different interests. We are two people that live in the same house, agree to have dinner together every night, but in reality have our own lives. Our own lives that belong uniquely to each of us. And even with all of these differences we somehow work them out within the parameters of our own relationship universe.

At some point in a relationship I think people begin to forget this. That our significant others have a life too. But it’s too important to forget. I don’t know what works and what doesn’t. I have my own fair share of problems and struggles. But the one thing that I keep coming back to, that I keep trying to articulate, is that we have to recognize, respect, and nurture the fact that the person we have committed to having a relationship is his/her own person. My wife is a person. Her own person.

I’m not sure why this small fact resonates with me. I think it reminds me that she has her own things going on – internally and externally. It reminds me to be a little more understanding. It reminds me to be patient and to be more supportive. It reminds me to be more compassionate and a better husband.

Does my wife hate being a mom?

I have no doubt that my wife loves our daughters more than anything in the world, but does she like being a mom?

Up until a few weeks ago, I was admittedly not around that much. I was on the road four days a week and locked in my office on the fifth day trying to wrap things up so that I didn’t spend the sixth and seventh days of the week also in my office.

Then suddenly, abruptly, I quit my traveling job for a local job. While I have a lot of great reasons and excuses for doing so, I really quit for two reasons- friends and family. I quit to work with my best friend, my co-author Atty during the day, and be at home with my wife and girls in the evening.

I figured, there is nothing more valuable in the world than spending time with those you love. But as of late, that time spent hasn’t been all sugar plums and sunshine.

Being home puts my home life into an entirely new perspective. Every day I come home to a frazzled, stressed out woman buried in dirty laundry, dishes and toys thrown in every direction. I’ve come to realize that my wife rarely seems all that happy. She sighs a lot, cries a lot, and complains a lot.

A big part of me wants to tell her to shut up and walk it off. To remind her that she doesn’t have to go to a job every day. But I guess maybe having a job would be better than being at home every day with the “damn kids” in her eyes.

My wife is a good mother. She’s attentive, affectionate and caring. But sometimes man, I just don’t know if maybe it wasn’t meant for her. If maybe she simply doesn’t have the nerves or grit to deal with it.

Someone who reads this might offer up kind advice and suggest I do things to ease the stress. But to be quite honest, I’m not sure what else I am to do. I cook dinner many evenings and tend to many chores after work. I encourage her have alone time every weekend. I let her go shopping, have weekend outings… hell, her friends and family dominate our social life.

But to no avail, the depressed attitude never seems to cease for very long. Sometimes I think maybe it is phase that simply has to pass. I convince myself that eventually the girls will both be in school, they’ll grow up and be out of her hair less and less… and maybe someday her attitude will brighten.

But to be completely honest, I want to tell my wife to quit being a fucking pussy.

To be boldly frank in this anonymous arena of thought, I want to tell her she has been given a great gift and opportunity. I want to remind her that some mothers are single and on food stamps. And that some parents are forced to work two mother fucking jobs, letting the microwaves serve up the warm meals and the TV tuck their little ones into bed while they’re working a second shift at the Shoney’s just to keep the lights on and rent paid in their dank little apartment.

But instead I find myself coming home, playing Gameboy and tuning it out. I don’t feel like battling her bad mood. I don’t feel like convincing her that things are great. I’m sick of being in charge of other people’s happiness. I have my own to worry about. Problem is, hers is directly linked to mine.

And now I feel like a completely insensitive, chauvinistic asshole. Yes, our kids are tough as nails. Yes, the life of a stay at home mom is tough, but so are all challenges worth taking on. What do you want me to say honey? Parenthood is tough! That’s why I opted to be the breadwinner in the relationship… alright, perhaps that was chauvinistic.

I guess the wise, emotionally adept, mature husband would sit his wife down and try to bring his wife to some miraculous realization that she’s actually got it pretty good. Ha!


New Job Jitters

A few weeks ago I started a new job at the firm where my co-author of this blog, Atty works. I’m actually his subordinate now, working in the same service line.

The pay is good, the career prospects seem bright, and my co-workers are polite, friendly and helpful. But for some reason, I feel out of place. Like I don’t quite belong.

The culture is much different here. Much more proper, or perhaps white collar feeling. My last job would be considered a white collar job as well. Both were professional services, consulting, and required you to wear a tie from time to time, but it is amazing to me how different the culture and personalities are between an accounting firm and a technology services firm.

The girls are definitely much prettier at the new job, which I do enjoy if only for the sake of people watching around the office. But I admittedly miss that geek vibe I used to get at work much more. I miss the techies showing off their newest phones, asking you to meet them in the hotel lounge after work for Nintendo 3DS multiplayer sessions or just nerding out over their ridiculous video cards and other computer hardware.

Oddly enough, I think the whole reason I got this new job is because I’m one of these guys. I’m a geek.

I think I’m going to try hard not to lose that identity. Not that it was ever completely me anyway, but I really enjoyed being part of that crowd. I don’t care about sports, movies, or what happened on The Bachelor last week.

I’m not so sure the stiff collared accountant/lawyer/auditor wears well on me anyway. I don’t mind it. I can adapt to it, but I definitely don’t want to lose myself to it or the culture.


On a tangent, or perhaps just diagonal. My first week on the job I felt something I hadn’t felt since I was a kid- that urge to either puke or shit my brains out on a regular basis.

When I was a kid I had a problem with anxiety. I used to overstress about things as trivial as the bus for school running late. Suddenly, I became this kid again. Unsure, unconfident and feeling small inside.

This is my third career and I’m only 30 years old! Three times now, I’ve started something fresh, not knowing what the hell I’m doing. Experience would tell me I became very good at what I did the last two times and quit on my own, so this third time, I’m going to really rock it since I only continue to build up in skills, education and experience.

I will succeed at this job. But this little twerp in the back of my mind screams FAILURE at me. He’s my childhood bully. This kid named David who used to spit snot balls in my hair and push me out of my seat on the bus. Who used to not let me take a seat next to him when the bus was completely full and make me stand in the aisle even as the bus started rolling down the street.

That kid tormented me. I used to pray for him. I would pray to God, as an elementary school aged child that he would help him. Later I found out his dad beat the shit out of him, not uncommon for the neck of the woods I grew up in.

David was always easily six inches taller than me. There was no way I could stand up to him. But he was just as fragile as I was. I was simply passing on the beatings from his father down to me.

I eventually overcame David as my bully. I eventually grew up and got taller than him. The same will apply with the new job and the little David taunting me in the back of my head. Eventually I’ll grow up and own my bully.

Appeal to your Higher Game

Have you tapped into your higher game? Maybe you aren’t sure if you have or not. Maybe you aren’t exactly clear what “Higher Game” even is.

At its core, “Higher Game” is maintaining the upper hand in social situations. This includes mentally, emotionally and even physically to a certain extent. Higher game is not giving a petty person the shallow satisfaction they seek, whether this be from showing off, posturing, flirting or acting out in some other fashion.

But “Higher Game” is also personal. To have higher game is be self-aware but also aware of the emotional state of those around you. To have higher game is to have class, self-restraint, and self-confidence without being cocky.

When you decide to appeal to your higher game you kill with kindness and win arguments by not having them at all, and instead dismissing them as non-important. You play the long game, a game where instead you beat your opponents by simply living a better life and being prosperous. You ultimately beat your opponents by leaving them in the dust, free yourself of them and instead worrying about yourself.

That isn’t to say you aren’t aware of those who wish you ill will, in fact you are hyper aware of them. Because you are appealing to your higher game, you understand them. But you also know thyself and are free of them.

You brush off your transgressors like sweeping dust from your front porch, quick, effortlessly and with little effort.

Find your higher game.


The kid no one likes.

When I was a kid I had a smart mouth. I was a know it all. I was scruffy and from the trailer park, my clothes always reeked of cigarette smoke and I probably had an annoying tendency to ask too many questions or correct people in a rude way.

I didn’t recognize any of this in myself when I was a kid of course. I figured it out later in life from the parents of childhood friends, and usually through snide remarks. The time that hit me most in the gut was when I saw the mother of my best friend growing up at Costco.

I greeted her and she asked if my kids were as smart mouthed as I was as a kid. My first instinct was to say, “Hey, F@#$ off C@#$” but instead I kept it classy and made light of the backhanded remark. I’ve come a long way since my days as a snippy, smart mouthed child.

Another classic moment came when I was a waiter in college and had to serve the older sister of a former friend. She practically refused to look me in the face the entire time. Was I really that bad!?

Yes, totally.

Today, I see history repeat itself. My sister never experienced the awakening or level of self-realization that I did. She thinks asserting your opinion and throwing your weight around at all costs is the only way, otherwise you’re being walked on or used. She has zero tact and approaches all arguments or disagreements like it’s a no holds bar street fight where anything goes, especially hits below the belt or trying to gouge your opponent’s eyes out.

My sister loses jobs frequently and the jobs she holds are usually less than desirable. Her relationships also tend to end up in shambles. Her first husband abandoned the relationship emotionally while her second husband and she have an unhealthy tit-for-tat, cycle of revenge cheating.  In fact, she is so poor at interpersonal communication that if she happened upon this blog post and realized I was referring to her, she’d be quicker to cuss me out than take the criticisms as constructive at any level.

This weekend I let my sister’s daughter, my niece, come stay at our house. Suddenly I see my juvenile self in full force. She’s a sweet girl, just socially retarded. She is a product of her parents- smart mouthed, intrusive, argumentative, and kind of unpleasant to be around.

As a result, I don’t think she has many friends. Actually I don’t think she has ANY friends. I think the poor kid sits at home all the time being tasked as the babysitter of her little half-brothers. When she came over yesterday, her step-father basically drove up, let her off at the curb and drove away.

My wife and I try to mentor her, teach her better habits, be solid parental examples, but a big part of me is just ready to send her off. It’s a personal challenge, a challenge to perhaps break the cycle.

Maybe I can make a difference for her. She’s the only other female grandchild in the family apart from my two. The rest are little boys who destroy at least one thing in my house every time they visit. Bleh, I hate kids that aren’t my own!

But maybe this one, my niece, I’ll take a plug at shaping and mentoring a bit. I wish I’d had someone to do so for me when I was her age.


Data Brokers are Selling Your Identity

Do you regularly pay with a credit card at the checkout counter? What about use grocery store loyalty cards? Turns out, all that data is being aggregated and used to track you!

You read right. Statistics gathering companies like Acxiom Corp and LexisNexis, which are called Data Brokers, buy up your personal information from credit card companies and retailers and use it to create a profile on you. Then that data is sold to healthcare providers.

On the surface, this might sound amazing! You doctor can use smart predictive methods to stop you from having a heart attack or developing diabetes before it ever happens.

But wait… doesn’t that also mean that the data could be used against you? Suddenly….

  • Your insurance company can charge you more for being a smoker, drinking more than they are comfortable with, or eating too many Little Debbie cakes.
  • The EPA can decide you consume too much fuel and should be put into a higher tax bracket designated for those who emit too much carbon pollution.
  • When switching insurance companies, you could be charged higher premiums for visiting the doctor too often in the past.
  • A potential employer could buy this data and use your pharmacy loyalty card data to determine that you take too many meds and are prone to taking sick time more than they are comfortable.

Hell, I could speculate all day on the way this data could be used against you. I think the ways it could be used against you easily outnumber the ways it is useful by at least 10 to 1.

It makes one seriously consider going to all cash as much as possible. I’ve always been a tin-foil hat wearing kind of guy in this regard anyway, simply from working in IT and knowing the level of detail that can be surmised about a person based on their web surging and computer usage habits.

For example, I could tell that Jane in HR has gall bladder stones, Mike in accounting feels a burning sensation when he urinates and Michelle in finance just recently got engaged just by the crap they search for in Google. Adding in loyalty card and credit card transaction information simply fills in the pieces of the puzzle. Throw in a little cell phone GPS and metadata and suddenly they know more about us than we do ourselves.

We’re suddenly all under a microscope. Maybe it’s time to go off grid a bit. Switch to cash when possible, leave the cell phone at home or in the car when walking about, start using our browsers in private browsing mode and using browser plugins like Disconnect.

Regain a little bit of ourselves and anonymity.


Check out the Bloomberg article on the subject proclaiming HOW GREAT THIS ALL IS!!!!



The Debt Society

Is it reasonable for a member of the first world, in this day and age to consciously decide they’re never going to retire until they simply can no longer work, then proceed to live a life well beyond their means and completely financed by debt?

Quite a few of my peers do this. Maybe they never actually sat down and did the math or gave much thought to it, but nevertheless, they live life in this manner. And I can only assume that they assume that eventually when they are unable to work anymore, the state will take care of them, or perhaps their children… or who cares! Right now they have a gorgeous home, two shiny cars in the garage and a few big screen TVs on the wall.

Our banker/debtor economy rewards us for this behavior. The entire economy revolves around spending and buying. Economic news reports revolve around consumer spending and retail holidays like Black Friday and Christmas (yes your read right! Christmas is a RETAIL HOLIDAY).

Hell, even our presidents get on TV and makes speeches urging us to get out there and SPEND- SPEND-SPEND! Who here remembers when G.W. Bush sent each of us a nice $300 check for each person in your family, encouraging us to go out and boost Wal-Marts quarterly sales numbers!


Further, saving for a rainy day is no longer rewarded. The Federal Reserve has made it so easy for banks to obtain lending cash, they no longer pay competitive interest rates on savings deposits, which they would have traditionally relied on for lending out to others and collecting profits on the spread between the rate they paid you and the rate they charged the next guy.

Today, money in the bank is money losing value. The average rate of inflation far exceeds the rates of interest paid on savings deposits. So what is a saver to do?

This is a question I find myself struggling with quite often. I am naturally a very risk adverse guy. Credit card bills and debt cause me to lose sleep at night. But more and more I can’t help but notice that it doesn’t seem to really matter, just so long as I give into the idea of actually ever quitting my job and drifting off into old age on a permanent vacation called retirement- or hell, just file for bankruptcy. There’s no debtors prison in the US, so why not?

It’s all a balancing act of course, but these are the tussles I have with myself from time to time. The best I know to do is stay grounded, remind myself I don’t need all these things, the retail gorge and glutton fest doesn’t have to be for me just because society encourages it at every turn.

More and more often, I’m turning off the TV, watching fewer movies, caring less and less about the world around me. Focusing more on me, my family, and my friends. Places like Costco feels more and more like a circus each time I visit, the retail circus full of retail circus clowns working all week and living for the weekend when they can go spend all the fruits of their time and labor spent toiling away during the long, uneventful weeks where all we do is dream of Friday, and when we get to go shopping again….